Back in 2003, Disney surprised everyone with the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. The film starred high-profile actors like Johnny Depps and Geoffrey Rush, but was based on a Disney parks ride. About pirates. In the Caribbean. That lasts something like 5 minutes and isn’t exactly plot-heavy. But the film was a swashbuckling action phenomenon that was an instant hit, rejuvenating Depp’s career and even landing him an Oscar nomination for the role of Jack Sparrow. Now, Disney is back at it with another ride adaptation, also starring two big names, that looks just as fun and adventurous as the Pirates film—which went on to spawn a massive franchise? Will that happen with Jungle Cruise? Who’s to say, but if the first trailer is any indication, there’s a lot of fun to be had in this world.Jungle Cruise is set in the 20th Century and follows a riverboat captain named Frank (Dwayne Johnson), who is recruited by wealthy scientist Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) and her brother McGregor Houghton (Jack Whitehall) to take them on a mission to find the Tree of Life, which is believed to possess healing properties. But because this is an adventure film, there are some hijinks along the way, including encounters with dangerous animals and the intrusion of a competing German expedition. Basically, it’s a thrill ride come to life, one that adds a sense of danger to a ride that’s known for being relatively chill.
If you’ve never been on it, Jungle Cruise the ride is an attraction located in Disneyland, Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom (which also contains a large replica of the Tree of Life, giving this movie some additional tie-in park lure), Tokyo Disneyland, and Hong Kong Disneyland. The ride simulates a riverboat cruise down several rivers in the continents of Asia, Africa, and South America, and features animatronics of exotic animals along the way. Again, pretty chill—but we have to appreciate that the movie is adding that adventurous touch, which work so well for the equally laid-back Pirates ride.
Blunt and Johnson are no strangers to this type of movie. Both are already members of the Disney family, with recent Mouse House projects including Blunt’s turn as Mary Poppins in Mary Poppins Returns and Johnson’s voice work in Moana as Maui. Johnson is also known for the Jumanji reboot and its upcoming sequel, which share some animal adventure DNA with Jungle Cruise, making him a seamless fit. Blunt also previously starred in the film Gulliver’s Travels, which also shared a generally similar conceit.
Time will tell if this film has the same sort of mass appeal and clout as the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, and if it can spin off into bold new directions for sequels, but for now we’re really looking forward to how this first one turns out. With such a charming cast, we have a lot of confidence in this thing’s potential. We’ll find out for certain when Jungle Cruise makes its way to theaters next summer, on July 24, 2020.
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